By Guss, Margaret
Information Today , Vol. 7, No. 3
Locally Mounted Online Databases
Large-scale studies sponsored by the Council on Library Resources and published in 1983 demonstrated high subject usage of library online catalogs. User's success with the OPAC was limited by many of the same constraints as in the card catalog - lack of knowledge of thesaurus subject heading vocabulary and inability to express an information need.
When asked how the OPAC could be improved, users requested access to journal and newspaper article literature, access to books at the chapter level, and access to other types of information resources, like encyclopedias.
Reviewing the literature of OPAC development and describing the characteristics of first, second, and third generation OPACs, Charles Hildreth has shown how OPAC design has become more sophisticated by adopting the research and capabilities of the information retrieval literature. This has expressed itself in Boolean capabilities, field searching, limits, and truncation.
Other current trends in librarianship at this time are attempts to expand service beyond library walls (SDI and document delivery) and the increasing reliance upon journal information in collection building.
Journal Article Access in OPACs
These four trends come together and help to explain why academic libraries are beginning to add journal article access to their OPACs. Experiments to increase users' access to a wide variety of information resources, to make access available in homes and offices, and to increase users' productivity are being reported more and more in the literature.
Librarians beginning the experiment tended to be technologically oriented - Georgia Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University. Since then, experiments at Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, Arizona State University, University of Southern California, and California Institute of Technology have been reported. The experiments generally reflect these common characteristics:
1. Databases selected are of general interest and high usage;
2. Access is limited;
3. Development of the system often requires the cooperation and expertise of the campus computing center;
4. User interface provides online helps;
5. High costs, both hardware and software.
Differences in system design and development include at least: